March 3: Happy Mistress Day!

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Mark your calendars: March 3 is Mistress Day in China. How are you going to celebrate this special occasion?  According to the Shanghai Daily and the Global Times, an Internet community of third wheels has decided to designate 3/3 as their exclusive day.  Here’s the scoop from the Global Times:

“An online forum advocating “mistress rights” has declared March 3 to be Mistress Day, in order to draw attention to their plea for “open acceptance in society.”

The China Mistress Association welcomes their key demographic as well as married men and women to attend an afternoon festival scheduled for various cities across the country.

According to San Jie (pseudonym), the association’s organizer, discussion topics will include “how to get my man to come to my place every day,” “how much does your man give to you every month?” and “when will he buy me a house and car?”

After decades in which straight-laced communist morés kept any romance—extra-marital or more conventional—in check, China is in the throes of a sexual revolution. Many Chinese men I know have mistresses. In turn, many wives tolerate the liaisons, reasoning that as long as their husbands take care of their families, a little bed-hopping is acceptable. A few years ago, a journalist friend reporting on marriage in China shared an interesting detail. De Beers, the diamond dealer, usually paired its “A Diamond is Forever” ad campaign with images of passionate couples. In China, the gem company was once advised to use as the backdrop pictures of a happy family. In other words, marriage in China was for creating a family, not glorifying love between two people.

Nevertheless, fewer Chinese wives may be willing to put up with their husband’s peccadilloes. The country’s divorce rate is at an all-time high, with cheating a main reason for the splits. Detective agencies that specialize in catching wayward husbands are doing a booming business.

Beyond the personal realm, mistresses have become a political issue. A 2007 government survey found that almost 90% of provincial-level officials convicted of graft in the previous five years had mistresses. One prosecutor from central China, for instance, was convicted of having siphoned off $2 million in government money, in large part to fund his seven woman-strong mistress habit. It’s a chicken-or-egg question: Did the mistresses come first, leading to the corruption needed to support these latter-day concubines? Or did the availability of illicit cash make mistress-acquiring an attainable an enviable lifestyle choice?

Some puritanical Chinese Communist Party intellectuals have tagged the increase in “little wives” as just another sign of the excesses of China’s capitalist reforms. But the dirty secret, of course, is that Mao Zedong depended on a collection of young ladies dedicated to pleasuring the Chairman. Most other Chinese simply weren’t as free to indulge as their Great Helmsman. A Chinese friend of mine who once served as a mistress shrugged when I asked about her liaison. “Everybody’s happy,” she said, although she admitted the wife, also her friend, probably didn’t know about the affair. Happy Mistress Day.